Beware of Assignment of Benefits on Your Home Insurance Claim
Maintain control of your home insurance claim - assigning benefits to a home repair vendor could be costly and here's why.... An AOB is a clause that, once signed, transfers control of the claim from the customer to the contractor - allowing the contractor to collect any payments directly from the customer's insurance company. This gives the contractor the latitude to perform work before the insurance company has an opportunity to appraise the damage or to exaggerate the extent of the damage – and either situation could lead to disagreements about the settlement amount. If the insurance company determines that the claim settlement amount is less than the amount of the contractor’s bill, the customer could be on the hook to pay the difference or face the possibility of foreclosing on their home due to a contractor lien. In some instances, the contractor bills the insurance company for repairs they never made, or takes money from the customer and then takes off. Sadly, those are some of the more fortunate AOB scam victims. In the worst-case scenario, if you’ve signed the rights to your entire claim to the water extraction contractor and their bill isn’t paid, the contractor can place a lien on your home for unpaid repair bills – in Florida, those liens are enforceable by foreclosure. Now, here is what you should do... First things first: contact your insurance company FIRST in the event of a loss. Not only will this help you avoid dealing with an AOB issue, but thanks to partnerships most insurance companies have in place with reputable water restoration companies, your insurer can probably get a technician to show up at your home quicker than you can if you make the call! Consider the following suggestions to help you avoid AOB scams: •Use your insurance company’s recommended vendor. •Do not hire a contractor that requires you to sign an assignment of benefits. The contractor should only require you to sign a work authorization form. •Do not sign contracts or forms that you do not fully understand. When in doubt, call your insurance company or agent for an explanation and advice. Once your home is dry and you're ready to make repairs, what should you do? •Continue to be on the lookout for AOB scams - consider the suggestions listed above. •Always get written estimates for repair jobs. •Research the background of any contractor you're thinking of hiring. Call your local Better Business Bureau to see whether any complaints have been filed against the contractor. •Ask your contractor for local references and testimonials, as well as proof of general liability insurance and workers' compensation insurance.